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Tutorial: Improve Exposure with Dodge and Burn

By December 22, 2013Photography

Improve your Photography with Dodge and Burn

To change flat photos the first thing we do in post processing is to increase the contrast. This method is very common for beginners who don’t know how to improve the exposure and sharpness. Overcooked underexposed or overexposed photos with noise is the result. To avoid this, light painting is the best method. Some parts on photos require more light and others less. In Photoshop this is called dodging and burning. Dodging when we light up a specific part of image and burning when we do the opposite. Lets see how to use dodge and burn tool for stunning photos.

Tutorial Details and Resources

Apps Used: Adobe Photoshop

Estimated Completion Time: 15′ Minutes

Resources: Girl Portrait

Step 1 > Open the Image

Open the image you want to edit in Photoshop. The girl looks beautiful but the exposure can be better.


Dodging and burning step 1

Step 2 > Dodging and Burning

First duplicate the layer so you don’t have to import it again if something goes wrong. Before you use the tool, look the image and decide what parts of your image need dodging (lightning) and what burning (darkening). The goal is to give the main object a 3D feeling and not a flat one. Usually try to darken parts where the light naturally would be less. And use dodging in parts where the light would be more. To use the burning tool go to tools palette and pick it or press (O). Below i used the burning (darkening) around the face to make it pop out.


dodging and burning


Burning (darkening) around the face and hair.

burning and dodging step 3


Dodging (lightning) on eyes and hair

Photoshop dodging step 4


When you want to use dodging on highlights make sure you change the range to “Highlights” and when you want more darkening for shadows change the range to “Shadows”. You can use Dodge and Burn Tool  (O) from portraits to landscapes. With dodging and burning you can emphasize specific parts of your image making it more appealing.


dodging and burning part 5b

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